This St Patrick’s Day, 17th March 2017, sees Walsh Whiskey and UK Importer Emporia Brands come together for the UK’s first ever cocktail competition involving The Irishman whiskey.
Focusing on The Irishman Founder’s Reserve expression, both companies are on the lookout for the best innovative twist on their signature serve, The Cold Irishman. With the original recipe seeing a blended combination of The Irishman Founder’s Reserve, coffee, half and half and sugar syrup, the competition throws open a variety of options to impress the Walsh family of Bernard and Rosemary.
The award-winning Walsh Whiskey are offering an exclusive trip to their new distillery ‘Royal Oak’, with the chance to experience the range of expressions first hand, as well as the immersive opportunity of a VIP distillery tour located in the heart of barley-growing country, framed by two-hundred-year-old might oaks on the banks of the goodly River Barrow in Ireland’s Ancient East.
With a minimum of 35 ml of The Irishman Founder’s Reserve needed, and a maximum of 5 ingredients (including the base whiskey and excluding garnish) allowed, bartenders also need to explain their inspiration as part of their submission.
Entries will be open from 17th March until 12th May, in which a blind judging will take place of all submissions by some of the top industry figures in whiskey, as well as an Emporia Brands representative visiting the venue to experience the recipe first hand, with the winner announced on 19th May, the day before World Whisky Day. The winner will win the trip to Royal Oak later in 2017 where they will re-create their winning recipe to the Walsh Family, VIP’s and journalists within the distillery itself.
The Caorunn Gin Plant at Balmenach Distillery, home to Caorunn Gin, is open to the public and gin lovers from near and far will be able to book a tour round the famous distillery to learn about the special botanicals and processes that go into making the much-loved craft gin.
The Balmenach Distillery is a destination quite unlike any other in Scotland; it lies in the heart of Speyside’s rolling hills, with breath-taking views of the highlands. Visitors can learn more about the Scottish botanicals including dandelion, heather, coul blush apple, bog myrtle and rowan berry – which all grow in the surrounding countryside and blend together to create Caorunn’s distinct flavour.
Each batch of Caorunn is passionately handcrafted in small batches by Gin Master, Simon Buley. Visitors will be guided through the craft process used to create the exceptional Scottishgin . Guests on the Caorunn Gin Tour will gain an insight into Caorunn’s artisanal production process through a privileged behind-the-scenes tour of the production area. What’s more, visitors will be given the truly unique chance to discover the world’s only working Copper Berry Chamber, which gives Caorunn it’s clean and versatile taste. Built in the 1920s the Chamber is legacy to a time when all gin was produced using this slow, careful process.
The tour includes an intimate and personal Gin Masterclass, where guests will uncover the history of Scotland’s best loved gin.
The tutored sampling section of the tour is sure to be a highlight, where guest will taste how Caorunn has distilled the essence of the Scottish Highlands into a glass. Visitors will be taken on an aromatic taste adventure and enjoy a deconstructed nosing and tasting session to learn how locally foraged ingredients are used to create the uniquely dry and crisp, aromatic flavour of Caorunn. Caorunn will be sampled both neat and as a classic Caorunn &T, served with red apple to complement its fragrant tasting notes.
There will be one intimate tour each day, for a maximum of six guests. Tours cost £10 per person and start at 11.30am, Monday to Thursday. To make a booking or for more information, please call + 44 (0)1479 874933 or send your enquiry to email@example.com
Plymouth Gin has launched an extensive and exciting new drinks menu for the distillery’s Refectory Bar featuring a combination of classic and contemporary cocktails that have been curated by International Brand Ambassador, Sebastian Hamilton-Mudge. The menu not only offers an unparalleled taste experience for gin lovers visiting the Plymouth Gin distillery but also brings to life the remarkable stories behind the brand.
At the heart of the menu are four cocktails that tell the story of Plymouth Gin. The Marguerite, a variation of the Dry Martini which was first recorded using Plymouth Gin, showcases the brand’s historic role in the creation of the world’s most famous gin cocktail; the Gimlet and Pink Gin both speak of Plymouth Gin’s association with the British Royal Navy, on whose ships these drinks were first created and finally the Gin Pennant is a modern cocktail devised by Hamilton-Mudge, with nautical tradition at its heart.
The eclectic menu offers something for everyone and has been designed to challenge modern ideas of gin cocktails. From The Captain’s Table section is a collection of the Refectory Bar team’s favourites, including the Dartmoor Flip, made with a syrup of local Jail Ale. Recreating the communal drinking rituals among sailors in the 1600s, the Punch-Up on the Barbican section offers innovative group punches designed to be shared. With Love From The Savoy, meanwhile, celebrates the brand’s long history with the American Bar at the Savoy Hotel, proving to gin lovers that great drinks never go out of fashion.
A final series of drinks – Stranger Things Happen At Sea – is a forward-looking collection of new and unusual cocktails. The Negroni 57, imagined by Hamilton-Mudge after a long day working at the Plymouth Gin distillery, is batch-made, bottled and charged with CO2, while the Ankle Snapper is a fun recreation of the classic Red Snapper, using fresh cherry tomatoes and cardamom. The menu also offers a group of non-alcoholic drinks, to which Plymouth Gin can be added according to personal tastes.
Sebastian Hamilton-Mudge comments: “The new Refectory Bar menu is my celebration of the versatility and rich cocktail history of Plymouth Gin, a spirit that is loved by the best bartenders and gin connoisseurs across the globe. With such a wealth of heritage, it was important to bring to life the stories of Plymouth Gin through the new cocktail menu, while also demonstrating why this spirit is considered one of the world’s most versatile cocktail ingredients. I hope that the fun and playful collection of cocktails will excite gin lovers visiting the Refectory Bar time and time again.”
The new Refectory Bar menu is available at the Plymouth Gin Refectory Bar, Black Friars Distillery, Plymouth. For opening hours visit the Refectory Bar website: http://www.therefectorybar.co.uk/
Marguerite: Plymouth Gin, French dry vermouth, orange bitters
Classic Pink Gin: Plymouth Navy Gin, 2 drops of Angostura bitters, lemon twist
Reinvented Gimlet: Plymouth Navy Gin, homemade lime cordial
Providing a deliciously different experience this Spring, Bombay Sapphire, the world’s number one premium gin, has partnered with The Vineyard Hotel in Berkshire to create ‘The Great Gin Escape’, the ultimate getaway for gin lovers.
Available from March until the end of April, ‘The Great Gin Escape’ includes tickets to explore the home of Bombay Sapphire in Hampshire, and an overnight stay and dinner at the luxury five star Vineyard Hotel at Stockcross. Guests will be welcomed at The Vineyard with a Bombay Sapphire Ultimate Gin & Tonic and accompanying chocolate treat infused with the exotic botanicals found in the iconic gin, created exclusively by Head Patisserie Chef Antony Millon. Guests will then be invited to feast on a sumptuous five-course menu at the hotel restaurant with all dishes sourced from local and seasonal produce.
To continue the journey of discovery, all guests will be given tickets to explore the majestic Bombay Sapphire Distillery at Laverstoke Mill. Situated only 30 minutes by car from the hotel, guests can take part in ‘The Self-Discovery Experience’ which will take them around the official home of this exquisite gin. The fully interactive experience will uncover some of the hints and tips that create iconic cocktails, as well as taking visitors on a journey
through the history of Bombay Sapphire. Guests will be able to discover the beautiful glasshouses designed by renowned architect Thomas Heatherwick, take the opportunity to touch, smell and taste the botanicals in the dry room, witness the unique vapour infusion process in the Dakin Still House and learn about the history of the brand in the Heritage Room.
‘The Great Gin Escape’ experience will wind up with guests being offered a uniquely different cocktail, created by Brand Ambassador Sam Carter and available exclusively at the Bombay Sapphire Distillery. This ‘non-chocolate chocolatey cocktail’, explores flavour transmogrification by fusing freshly squeezed pink grapefruit with vanilla sugar to create the perfect guilt-free chocolate and gin indulgence.
‘The Great Gin Escape’ includes:
– Two complimentary Bombay Sapphire Ultimate Gin and Tonics on
– Overnight stay at The Vineyard Hotel, Berkshire
– Complimentary chocolate treat created by Head Patisserie Chef
– Five-course dinner for two within The Vineyard’s restaurant
– Tickets for the Self-Discovery Experience
– Complimentary cocktail at Bombay Sapphire Distillery created
exclusively by Brand Ambassador, Sam Carter.
The experience is priced from £250 per person per night and available from March until the end of April. To book please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01635 528770
I’ve been quite honoured recently. The brand new Bombay Sapphire distillery, located at Laverstoke Mill in Hampshire, opened its doors at the start of October, but I, alongside other distinguished publications, had the opportunity to be guided around by the team on site and see the unique set up that Bombay Sapphire have been working on for the last few years.
Many of you have experienced Bombay Sapphire in some shape or form, with myself personally using the brand within my work over the last few years. But to truly appreciate the brand and its history, Laverstoke Mill holds the key, with heritage and modern times combining subtly to create an impressive visitor attraction that can rival some of the best the UK has to offer. The former corn mill that dates back to 903 AD and is marked in the Domesday Book of 1086, has been transformed into an interactive tour that explains the intricate creation of Bombay Sapphire from grain to glass. But the idea and concept is seen as more leisure based as you are encouraged to relax and explore at your own pace.
The first idea is to unwind around the River Test which runs straight through the distillery. On a dry day you can enjoy a gin and tonic, Bombay style of course, sat overlooking the natural course of the river and historic buildings that bank it. Indeed, learn how the buildings started within the Heritage Room with many historic images and publications that show how Laverstoke grew over the years. Following this, the impressive Glasshouses (created by Thomas Heatherwick, the gentleman behind the London 2012 Olympic cauldron), one holding the tropical botanicals, the other the Mediterranean that Bombay Sapphire use, is sure to encourage even the novice of botanists to appreciate the beauty of each as you see in full bloom the likes of Grains of Paradise, almonds, angelica and the all important juniper berry.
The Botanical Dry Room dives into each ingredient more closely and involves a mix of sensory experiments and challenges to truly understand why each ingredient was chosen and has stood the test of time. The scale of the production can be summed up within the Dakin Still House (named after founder Thomas Dakin) where you can learn about the unique vapour infusion distillation process that Bombay Sapphire utilise. To finish, you come full circle and experience not only the history of Bombay Sapphire, but gin in general as the Gin Academy shows off a range of glassware, bottling’s and a comprehensive timeline of the important milestones that the brand has contributed to the gin category.
The distillery experience really dives into not only Bombay Sapphire, but gin in general as it looks to de-mystify the category to all levels of drinkers. Its unique glasshouses are a sight to see, and make you truly appreciate the botanicals within the gin, something you easily gloss over at other distilleries.
If you are lucky, you may meet and enjoy a cocktail by Sam Carter, Bombay Sapphire Senior Ambassador. When I visited, two specially created cocktails to celebrate the move from Warrington (their original home), down to Hampshire were offered –
Balloon or large wine
50 ml Bombay Sapphire
15 ml Martini Extra Dry (autumn season), Rosso (winter), Bianco (spring), Rosato (summer)
15 ml Bottlegreen elderflower cordial
100 ml Fever Tree ginger ale
Pour the Bombay Sapphire, vermouth and elderflower cordial into a balloon glass. Stir with a bar spoon, then squeeze and drop a fresh lime wedge in. Add cubed ice and stir. Pour ginger ale in and gently stir. Garnish with second squeezed lime, two slithers of fresh ginger slices and a sprig of mint, grouped together on one side of the glass.
as well as,
Tumbler or Martini
50 ml Bombay Sapphire
25 ml Fresh Pink Grapefruit juice
15 ml Vanilla seed sugar syrup
Squeeze the fresh pink grapefruit juice into a cocktail shaker. Pour in the Bombay Sapphire and vanilla syrup and add cubed ice. Shake hard and fine strain into chilled tumbler or Martini glass. Garnish with grapefruit twist or wedge.
Personally, get yourself down there. Words and photos do not do this venue justice, it’s just quite simply a fantastic idea to really open up not only a brand, but a category in ways that get everyone involved.
€35 million investment sees production return home after 60 years
Tullamore D.E.W., the world’s second largest Irish whiskey today celebrated the opening of its new €35m distillery in its hometown of Tullamore in the Irish midlands. As the first spirit flowed from the stills, to the cheers of hundreds of invited guests, the milestone marked the return of whiskey production to the town, 60 years after the original distillery closed its doors.
“This is a true ‘Parting Glass’ moment for Tullamore D.E.W., as we raise a glass to celebrate the beginning of an exciting new chapter in our 185 year history”, said Tullamore D.E.W. Global Brand Director Caspar MacRae. “Irish whiskey is the fastest growing spirits category in the world right now and our new distillery will enable us to meet our production needs over the coming decades”. The Tullamore Distillery is the first new distillery to be constructed on a greenfield site in Ireland in over 100 years and is one of the most exciting accomplishments to date in the Irish whiskey renaissance.
Among the special guests at the opening celebrations were the winners of the #PartingGlass competition, a global online search for the best toasts to mark the beginning of life’s new chapters. This exciting competition attracted hundreds of entries from around the world and was one of the most talked about social media campaigns of the summer. The winners joined a host of international guests and the Irish Government Minister, Simon Coveney T.D. who returned to open the facility having turned the sod on the distillery 12 months previous.
Also returning to Tullamore for the opening celebrations was Tom McCabe (84) a former employee of the original distillery who now lives in New Jersey, U.S.A. Tom spent three years working as a distiller in the original distillery before immigrating to America and was today reunited with his brother Fergal and sister Una, the first time all three siblings had been together in Tullamore since 1952. At the event Tom traded stories and memories with another former distillery worker and lifelong Tullamore resident, Paddy Lowbridge (90).
Commenting at the official opening ceremony Irish Government Minister for Agriculture, Food & the Marine Simon Coveney T.D. said, “Irish Whiskey is a star of the Irish food and drink industry and the fastest growing spirit on world markets. Today I am again impressed by the confidence of the companies investing €1 billion in Irish whiskey over a period of ten years. I was delighted to turn the sod on the site of this distillery in historic Tullamore and today, thefirst liquid gold flows into casks for skilful maturation with the promise of a premium product and great visitor experiences. This is something special. Government is committed to protecting the reputation and identity of Irish whiskey, produced by an industry committed to working together to further expand exports of a sustainable, quality, uniquely Irish product.”
John Quinn, Tullamore D.E.W., Global Brand Ambassador also commented, “This new distillery brings Tullamore D.E.W. back to its origins. We are incredibly proud of the Tullamore Distillery and know that its opening has been awaited with great anticipation in our key markets throughout the world. We look forward to building on our great success to date and helping new fans all around the world discover the magic of Tullamore D.E.W..”
To commemorate the rising of the Distillery, Tullamore D.E.W. unveiled the very limited release of 2014 bottles of Tullamore D.E.W. Celebratory Phoenix Single Batch an exclusive expression of the Tullamore D.E.W. Phoenix range. The Phoenix is a highly appropriate symbol for Tullamore and Tullamore D.E.W.. It is featured on the town’s coat of arms honouring the courageous rebuilding of the town after it was largely destroyed by fire following a devastating hot air balloon accident in 1785 and is a symbol of resilience, optimism and progress; attributes that have led to the opening of Tullamore Distillery.
The Tullamore Distillery features four hand crafted copper stills, designed to resemble the original stills from the old distillery; six brew house fermenters each with a 34,000 litre capacity; and warehouse storage for 100,000 casks. Tullamore Distillery draws the finest natural Irish water from the nearby Slieve Bloom Mountains and will be capable of producing the equivalent of 1.5 million cases of Tullamore D.E.W. annually.
The new single malt distillery under construction at Kingsbarns in Fife has passed another milestone in its development with the completion of the roof of the re-furbished listed building.
Director William Wemyss visited the site last week to put one of the last of the roof tiles into place. Joining him were the Distillery Founder and newly appointed Visitor Centre Manager, Douglas Clement; new Distillery Manager, Peter Holroyd; and Director of the site contractor Colorado, Ian Bownes. “Topping out” is a tradition in the building industry when a building is being completed with its roof or top. In this instance, the Wemyss party also marked the occasion with a dram from the Wemyss Malts whisky range.
The Wemyss family bought the Kingsbarns Distillery project in January 2013 and construction at the site began at Easter that year. Approximately 6 miles from St. Andrews, the distillery and its visitor centre are being built close to the world famous Kingsbarns championship golf course on the Cambo Estate. The site of the actual distillery is the historic and charming East Newhall Farm steading.
The new Kingsbarns Single Malt Scotch whisky will be classified in the Lowlands region and available after a minimum of three years maturation in oak casks. Fife grown malted barley has been secured to make the spirit and it will be matured predominantly in ex-Bourbon casks.
William Wemyss, commented on behalf of the family: “It’s been a very exciting year watching the site re-development progress. We’ve still got a lot to do to fulfil our dream of distilling at Fife’s newest single malt distillery, however we expect to be underway in November and are planning that the visitor centre and cafe will be open to the public from December this year. Key members of our new team are now in place and we welcome Peter Holroyd as Distillery Manager and the Distillery Founder Douglas Clement as Visitor Centre Manager. ”
The last of the distillery tours from our Scotland trip was Glenfiddich’s sister distillery, The Balvenie. Located just down the road from Glenfiddich, we were able to visit soon after finishing the Glenfiddich tour, where David Mair, the Balvenie distillery ambassador, greeted us. The Balvenie distillery is hidden away a little from the main road, but the shear size of the place comes into view, mainly due to the fact that Balvenie are part of a rare breed, they have their own malting floor, and are the only Scottish distillery who do it ‘traditionally’, which is a sight to be seen.
The malting floor was our first port of call, with David explaining that they use barley from the Balvenie Mains farm. He took us into a huge building which comprised of two floors. The top floor housed the newly brought in barley, where it is stored for a period of time and then steeped in spring water for 2-3 days. It then gets dropped down onto the germination floor where it is spread around by the malt men (or malt monkeys). This allows the barley to convert into natural sugars, and is turned by the four malt monkeys so that all the barley can get an even chance to germinate. Once the grains have sprouted, they’re transported back upstairs and across to the malt kiln. The malt is spread across a metal floor where a fire below, using anthracite and, to begin with, a small amount of peat, heats up the malt. All the resulting heat passes through the barley, and then out through the pagoda roof, a staple for all whisky distilleries. We were lucky to visit the malt kiln, as it had yet to be used since the re-start of the New Year production. The wooden beams towering above were covered in barley, and the strong smell of dry barley and peat was still lingering around despite the winter winds blowing through the pagoda roof.
David then showed us the underneath of the malt kiln, where their were piles of anthracite and peat, ready to be thrown in to heat the kiln above.
Once dried, the malt is then transported to the next building, housing the mash tun. First however, the malt is grinded through rollers and turned into grist. It’s then mixed into the mash tun with spring water from the nearby Conval Hills and is heated to around 63-64°C. This is done three times so it can extract all the sugars present. The result of the heat turns the mixture of starch into fermentable sugars, or wort. where David then took us to one of two rooms that held the washbacks. Each washback is 5 metres high, and combines the wort with yeast, which rises the temperature and the production of carbon dioxide. We were shown how the washbacks are never full, despite a layer of foam being produced from the reaction, rotating blades attached to the top of the lid of the washback help keep the level consistent. The process takes around 2-3 days and has a ABV of around 7-9%. We were able to taste a little from one of the washbacks, as at this stage it’s very similar to the production of beer. It gave a rather hot, very malty taste which, as you can imagine, gave very little taste to roam on the palate.
The next room housed the 6 copper pot stills. A very warm room, David showed the pipes that run the wash from the washbacks to one of the copper wash stills, where it is then heated, causing the alcohol vapour to rise up the neck and into the condenser where it is cooled by water. This liquifies the alcohol and is known as low wines. Once ready for the second distillation, a mixture of the low wines, foreshots and faints are heated up and again the alcohol vapours rise. The foreshots and faints are from a previous distillation, the parts that were not deemed pure enough, and is taken from the spirit safe where the stillman decides which is the purest portion of the spirit run. Once the ‘heart’, or new-make spirit, has been taken away, it is then ready to be matured in casks.
First though, we hopped in to a Land Rover and made our way to Balvenie’s own cooperage. Housed in a giant warehouse, they maintain all the casks so that they are ready to be used for the maturation process. All stages of the cooperage were their, including re-firing the inside of American oak barrels and making sure the barrels have no leaks from the reassembly. Outside, their were literally hundreds of barrels stacked tall, all ready for our next port of call, the warehouse.
We were driven to the famed ‘Warehouse 24’, where the dark, cold environment masked around rows of different aged barrels. David explained that Balvenie use American oak barrels as well as European sherry oak, which when married together to create their range, give off the flavours that Malt Master David Stewart is after.
Then the part that we had all been waiting for, the chance to sample The Balvenie range. Laid out to us in The Balvenie hut were DoubleWood, Signature, Single Barrel, PortWood, Tun 1401 Batch 2 and Peated Cask. So i present to you below my tasting notes:
Balvenie Signature 12yr – 40%
Matured first in bourbon, then refill bourbon and finally in sherry casks. On the nose, a very soft aroma of corn with honey and vanilla essences coming through later. The palate enjoys dried fruit balanced out with a soft spice that drives into a warm honey after-taste.
Balvenie DoubleWood 12yr – 40%
Starting its maturation in a traditional whisky cask, it is then transferred to a first fill European oak sherry cask. Sweet, rich aromas of fruit and honey mix together in your nose, but mellowing out into a smooth blend of raisin, nut and a slight cinnamon hint.
Balvenie Single Barrel 15yr – 47.8%
Created using only a single oak whisky cask of a single distillation. Each bottling forms a limited edition of no more than 350 hand-numbered bottles, meaning each bottle is unique and unrepeatable! The nose of soft corn and citrus with heather blended well in the nose and made its way onto the palate in the same manner, but a kick of oak and spiced apple hits you at the end. Sam recommended adding a drop of water to the dram, which gave it a spicier longer after-taste.
Balvenie PortWood 21yr – 40%
A blend of rare Balvenie is moved to port casks to create a strong yet fresh floral aroma with sweet notes and a hint of smoke on the nose. An extremely smooth and creamy flavour of fruit and honey on the palate.
Balvenie Peated Cask 17yr – 43%
Hints of smoke and soft peat blend gently on the nose, with a slow subtle hintness on peat on the palate mixing with vanilla. Short spice aftertaste with a sweetness lingering.
Balvenie Tun 1401 Batch 4- 50.5%
Taking its name from the traditional tun in which it’s married, a blend of 7 traditional whisky casks and 3 sherry butts ranging from 1967 to 1989 give off a heavy oak nose with slight smokyness mixed with oranges and a ‘old warehouse’ smell. An instant sweetness hits the palate which gets the juice buds flowing into a long blend of dried fruits, spice and slight hints of peat that mellows nicely.
So the last of the distillery tours was a lengthy yet intricate view of Scotlands only malt floor distillery, with a real appreciation from all the visits of how whisky is created. I can now talk about whisky with more confidence now i’ve see the sheer scale of the equipment used, the climates the workers work in and length of time whisky takes to get to our lips in a bar or restaurant. If you ever get the chance to visit any distillery, it’s highly recommended, even if whisky isn’t for you. It’s a fascinating experience, and one that i will defently be doing next year.
Check out the rest of the photos of the distillery including Warehouse 24, the malt floor, the malt kiln and the cooperage here.
OTHER THE BALVENIE EXPRESSIONS
Balvenie Tun 1401 Batch 5 – 50.1%
Blended together in a vat consisting of 5 whisky casks and 4 sherry butts. A bold start with lots of sherry and spice mixing well. Very spicy from the beginning once it hits the palate. Mouth-watering with a sweet yet light flavour of vanilla. A long, smooth finish that dries a little at the end.
Check out photos from The Balvenie Master of Craft via my Facebook page.
The third distillery of my Scotland tour was a visit to the world’s most awarded Single Malt Scotch whisky, Glenfiddich. Taking a short walk from Dufftown, the malt whisky capital of the world, in rather blustery conditions, we arrived to a rather picturesque setting. With mowed lawns, lakes and wide open spaces, it was as if you were walking in to someones front garden! Greeted by Katya, our tour guide for the morning, we started out with a brief talk on Glenfiddich itself, including the history of William Grant and his dream in 1886 of creating ‘the best dram in the valley’. She explained that William Grant had the use of one stonemason to build the distillery, using 750,ooo stones and only a year later, with the help from his 7 sons and 2 daughters, Glenfiddich distillery was up and running with the first drops flowing from the stills on Christmas Day 1887. To expand the ever growing vision, Charles Gordan (William Grants son-in-law) in 1909 travelled from as far as Lahore in Pakistan to the vast empire of China and to countires like Brazil and Hong Kong inbetween to make sure that Glenfiddich could be enjoyed by everyone world wide (over 180 countries enjoy Glenfiddich to this day). Glenfiddich is still owned by the William Grant & Sons company, with 5th generation Peter Gordon taking the helm since 2008.
We made our way to the ‘Lauter Tun’, where Katya showed us the malt that Glenfiddich use. Specialist maltsters are used due to the high demand, where barley is steeped in fresh water for two days. The reaction of germination occurs where it is then left for four to five days before being dried. Glenfiddich then take delivery of the malt barley and taken to be mashed. The malted barley is grinded into grist which is then poured into huge ‘mash tuns’. These huge steaming vats combine Robbie Dhu spring water from the nearby Conval Hills where it is then slowly rotated using a set of mash knives that lift and sift the mash to ensure the sugar doesn’t settle. The hot spring water completes the conversion of the starch to sugar, which dissolves into the water, producing a sweet liquid called ‘wort’. The whole process takes around six hours later. The next stage involves the draining of the mash tun and once cooled, it is pumped to the fermentation room. Katya mentioned that the ‘draff’, which is the left over barley from the mashing process – is sold to local farmers to feed to their cattle.
We entered the fermentation room where lines of wooden ‘washbacks’ house the wort. All of the washbacks are made from Douglas fir and stand at 5 metres high. Yeast is added to the wort which raises the temperature from around 19°C to about 33°C. The resulting carbon dioxide gas created by the reaction creates a hot frothing head to the wort. This creates a layer of foam that takes up around a metre from the top of the washback and has to be kept down with mechanical beaters. After spending around 64 hours fermenting, a ‘wash’ is created, with an ABV of 8-9%.
Katya then showed us to one of the warmer rooms on the Glefiddich site, the still house. 14 copper pot stills are housed in the heart of the Glenfiddich distillation. She explained that if any of the stills become damaged or are deemed out of action, a cast of the still is made so that the exact same still can be made again for continuity of the flavour each one produces. Each still is heated by ‘directed firing’, a huge flame that is located underneath the still, which causes the alcohol from the wash to rise and turn into vapour. As the vapour rises, its guided towards the neck of the copper still and is collected in the condenser. Cold water condenses the vapour into an intermediate liquid, known as ‘low wines’. The low wines contains around 21% ABV and are pumped to smaller ‘spirit stills’ and heated again. The vapourised alcohol rises again and trickles down into the spirit safe. Here, the spirit can be controlled and the stillman then decides the ‘heart’ of the distillation which is chosen for maturation. This new batch is reduced to around 63% alcohol with the natural spring water from the Robbie Dhu springs, and then filled into oak casks.
Katya took us to one of the warehouses, a damp, dark and very cold store that housed row upon row of various aged casks. Glenfiddich only use one time filled sherry and bourbon barrels because the oak helps mature the whisky and create subtle flavours. Katya mentioned that they sometimes char the inside of the cask with a blast of fire to re-open the grain of the wood. This aparantly allows the Scotch whisky to interact more easily with it. Also, around 2% of the whisky is evaporated each year because of the climate that Glenfiddich endures.
When the spirit has matured to requirement, the casks are emptied and the whisky is ‘cut’ using pure Robbie Dhu spring water. This reduces the alcohol by volume once more to around 40% ABV and then nearly all of the Glenfiddich range is then bottled on site at Glenfiddich.
The final part of the tour was to enjoy the work that Glenfiddich create. We entered a rather grand room with a round table laid out in the middle. Here, 12yr, 15yr, 18yr and 21yr waited for our approval. So below, I present to you my tasting notes on each:
Glenfiddich12yr – 40%
A pre-dinner drink, on the nose it gave off a fresh pear aroma with a lemon and lime citrus follow through that gave the 12yr a rather fresh smell. Upon tasting it gives you an instant mouth-watering sensation with the pear coming through stronger with a sweet surrounding. Hints of malt are thrown in for good measure although the pear is clearly the dominant flavour. A slight spice tingles your mouth but it gives a smooth finish that lasts for a good few seconds.
Glenfiddich 15yr – 40%
The Glenfiddich 15yr is matured in three casks – sherry, bourbon and new oak and the process is called the Solera system. Because of this, the aromas coming out are softer than the 12yr, with hints of vanilla and honey blended together. You get a warm tingle to begin with when tasted, with the sherry oak flavours coming through followed by the ginger and cinnamon. It leaves you with a pleasant smoothness with a sweet spicy end.
The Glenfiddich Solera system is a unique process amongst Scotch whisky. Glenfiddich 15yr from sherry, bourbon and new oak casks are married together into a large Solera vat, made of Oregon pine. The vat is always kept at least half full, so when topped up, it gives a consistent whisky quality.
Glenfiddich 18yr – 40%
On the nose, the 18yr gives you a rich fruit aroma with an almost spiced rum effect. The spice becomes a little gentler upon tasting with the flavours of the fruit coming out with the mix of oak to give this a slight warm yet gentle short finish. With a little splash of water, you get a smoother drink although the spice remains.
Glenfiddich 21yr – 40%
The Glenfiddich 21yr spends 4 months in a Caribbean rum cask to give a strong and intense banana and toffee aroma with hints of leather and a rich sweet follow-through. Upon tasting, it enters your mouth rather smooth with a slight smokiness and ginger and lime extracts. It leaves you with a long warmth after-taste with subtle spice hints.
For other Glenfiddich expressions, click here.Yet another fantastic insight into the workings of a whisky distillery, where after visiting two already, both myself and my father started to understand the lenghty process that is endured to create something that is sometimes just taken for granted. I’ll be back!
Take a look at the rest of the photos taken at the distillery here.
The second distillery of my Scotland tour was located in the North East Highland’s and a little town named Alness, home of The Dalmore.
After walking the short 20 minute walk from Alness town centre, we were greeted by a stunning location. The Dalmore distillery is situated on the banks of the Cromarty Firth, and with the morning sunrise filtering its way through the crisp January sky, it was the perfect setting as the light hit warehouses, pagodas and barrels.
Making our way to the visitors centre, we were greeted by our tour guide for the day, Morag, who whisked us off to the Dalmore Custodian Wall. The Dalmore Custodians is members only, where you can find exclusive rare bottlings, events and information, and if your were one of the lucky first 1263 Custodians (the year the Dalmore stag was founded), your name will be etched onto their Custodian wall. Next to the wall, was the story behind The Dalmore, ‘The Death of the Stag’. A replica of the canvas that is housed in the Scottish National Gallery hangs proud as Morag explained how in 1263, a predecessor of the Clan MacKenzie saved King Alexander III from a rampaging stag. The King rewarded him with the Royal emblem of a 12-pointed stag that he used in his coat of arms, and would go on to use on every bottle of The Dalmore since.
Morag then proceeded to explain the history of The Dalmore itself, which turns out to be a rather simple affair. Established in 1839 by Sir Alexander Matheson, he built the distillery overlooking the Black Isle. 47 years later, the MacKenzie family purchased the distillery, and with their history dating back to 1263, the iconic 12 point stag came to life. Recently, the MacKenzie motto ‘Luceo non Uro’ or ‘I Shine, not burn’ has also been used by The Dalmore. The MacKenzie family owned The Dalmore for almost a century, until Whyte and Mackay took over.
Making our way to the ‘Lauter Tun’, The Dalmore use golden barley from the Black Isle, which is then ground into grist which maximizes the amount of starch that converts into sugars during the mashing process. After milling, it is then ready for combining with yeast and water from Loch Morie. The barley is fed into the lauter tun (a huge copper pot) and combined with the Lock Morie water. The resulting mixture is named the ‘wash’ where it is pumped through to one of the 6 metre deep washbacks made of Oregon Pine. After being steeped for several days, the wash is then pumped through to their unique flat top wash stills to start the distillation process. This huge room, sweltering from the heat of these giant structures, houses 4 of the flat top wash stills, where their being heated at 94°C. The vaporised alcohol slowly makes its way up the still and through the lyne arm that leads to one of the four ‘cold water jacket’ stills. Pipes in the still pump cold water around, condensing the alcohol vapour into liquid or ‘low wine’ and is then pumped through the ‘spirit safe’ where they get the chance to control the condensed spirit.
Once we explored the distillation process, Morag took us to one of The Dalmore’s warehouses where, in a rather bitterly cold environment, rows upon rows of casks were housed. She explained that The Dalmore use only two kind of barrels to mature – American white oak bourbon barrels from Jim Beam, and Matusalem sherry casks from Gonzalez Byass. The Dalmore is the only distillery permitted to source Matusalem sherry wood from Gonzalez Byass, giving it a unique blend of 30 years of oloroso sherry flavours. Morag also told us a fascinating story regarding The Dalmore’s New Years Eve celebrations back in 1999. The staff and their families were quite possibly making history as they gathered at the distillery and the chimes echoed, they produced what was very probably the first scotch whisky anywhere in the Third Millennium. 12 years later, the first casks are set to be bottled.
The final part of the tour was to enjoy the work that Master Blender Richard Patterson and The Dalmore create. We entered a small room with a round table laid out in the middle. Here, 12yr, 15yr, 18yr and King Alexander III waited for our approval. So below, I present to you my tasting notes on each:
The Dalmore 12yr – 40%
Aged for 10 years in a Jim Beam cask and then 2 years in a Matusalem sherry cask. A nose of vanilla and honey with an orange citrus and a more subtle hint of vanilla, cocoa and marmalade on the palate.
The Dalmore 15yr – 40%
12 years in a Jim Beam cask and then 2 years split into 3 thirds. One third in Apostoles cask, one-third in Amoroso and the last third in Oloroso. The final year is matured in a Matusalem sherry cask. On the nose it has an orange and marmalade blend, with hints of fruit cake. A well-balanced ginger and mandarin flavour on the palate, with chocolate hints coming through.
The Dalmore 18yr – 46%
Aged for 15 years in a Jim Beam cask and then 3 years in a Matusalem sherry cask. On the nose, fruit and spice blend well, with subtle almond and cinnamon aromas near the end. Vanilla, rosemary and hints of coffee present itself on the palate, with slight flavours of citrus and cocoa near the end.
The Dalmore King Alexander III– 40%
This is the only Single Malt with 6 different finishes – Matusalem, Sauvignon Blanc, Amoroso, Jim Beam, Oloroso and Apostoles. Fresh flowers and exotic fruits being released on the nose, with vanilla and zest of oranges coming through. Red berries and hazelnut, almond, rich citrus and vanilla produce a very smooth, sweet flavour on the palate.
I feel that I need to apologise for the briefness in my review of The Dalmore distillery. Compared to the in-depth writing of my visit to Auchentoshan, it may feel a little rushed. This was down to a rookie error on my part, my notebook was left back at the B&B. I have therefore lacked the specifics regarding the intricate workings of The Dalmore, however, I’m sure that if you have read this far, you will let me off this once! I do intend to return to The Dalmore in the near future, and my tasting notes cover the core range of what The Dalmore offer, where if you purchase any of the four available, you will not be disappointed.
For more information on The Dalmore, see my review of the brand here.